The rain was really coming down, but we wouldn’t have to walk far. They don’t own a car and so we could park on their little driveway, right in front of their front-door.

I quickly opened up the boot and took out the food-parcel, making sure that I used both hands; it was heavy. Within seconds, the front-door was opening; the recipient had been looking out for my car. I quickly put the food-parcel down, just inches inside. I advised her to use both hands, too. I explained that there were fresh items inside it, that would need to go in the fridge. Her face broke into a broad smile.

“Thank you, so, so much.”

I didn’t hang around for too long, apart from a cheerful “God bless”, as I turned and left.

This was a mother, receiving another free food-parcel from Lawn Community Church, in Swindon. It was the third time thar we’d delivered to that address. I’ve lost count of the number of food-parcels that I’ve delivered, in recent years. It all started in 2020 when I was a Baptist Minister at a church on Merseyside. I’d started to get to know the Community Champion at my local Morrisons store(other supermarkets are available), when the pandemic happened. Very soon, Head Office were advising all stores to respond by helping the needy and I was soon offered over a thousand pounds of free food, providing it was passed on to those really needing it. Good old Ruth!

Incidentally, I had a church member who had already been helping the poor and was on first-name terms with the most-needy. Good old Shirley!

That was during a two-year pandemic and although we made a lot of mistakes, we helped keep three or four people alive. More recently, I came to Swindon to lead the church at Lawn and looked to make friends at the nearby Lawn Primary School. I explained my past experience with food-parcels to them. It came to pass, that in spring 2023 they referred three households to the church for support. Referrals can also come through local councillors, or through homelessness organisations.

Remember, such a household will already have some sort of income and a free food-parcel will help make up the difference. Every little helps. If we provided food and drink for a week to a typical husband and wife with 2.4 children,, it would cost a three-figure sum. In reality, a typical household is likely to be a single-parent with one or two children and an appropriate foo-parcel will help them getting through to the weekend. They will be adept at making a little go a long way.

An appropriate food-parcel? It should contain tins of baked-beans, or ravioli. Packets of pasta, rice and spaghetti. Jars of jam, pasta sauce and curry sauce. More tins of sweetcorn, or carrots. Look to provide enough ingredients for several weeks, not a whole week. Check to see if there’s any vegans or vegetarians at the other end. Check the dates on produce. Add breakfast-cereal and orange squash. Before you go to deliver, buy fresh milk, butter and bread, to finish.

When you deliver your assistance, do so in a non-judgemental way. Don’t outstay your welcome on the doorstep and don’t go inside, unless the resident physically needs help in putting the things away in the kitchen. Don’t ask personal questions. The person answering the door may not be able to look you in the eye. They may have low self-esteem. They may not be dressed, even though it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Yet they just might ask you questions, after a while, about your motives for doing this. They may just be open to hearing about this Jesus: gently and sensitively.

Yet avoid potential for creating dependency. If the school ask you to deliver on a weekly-basis for three months, keep to their time-frame – you will be respected for respecting boundaries.

Jesus said, “Whatever you did for the least of these…you did for me.”

John Cheek
Minister of Lawn Community Church in Lawn, Swindon.